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Ann Emerg Med. 1988 Nov;17(11):1221-6.

Prehospital external cardiac pacing: a prospective, controlled clinical trial.

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Department of Trauma and Emergency Medicine, Milwaukee County Medical Complex, Wisconsin 53226.


This prehospital prospective, controlled study was conducted to determine if prehospital cardiac pacing affects survival. The study involved 239 patients, 226 pulseless, nonbreathing patients (rhythms of asystole and electromechanical dissociation with heart rates less than 70) and 13 patients with hemodynamically significant bradycardia (heart rate less than 60; blood pressure less than 90 mm Hg; not responding to atropine). Patients were assigned to treatment or control groups on an every-other-day basis. One hundred three patients were treated with an external cardiac pacing device; 22 (21.4%) were resuscitated (arrival at admitting hospital with pulse and blood pressure) and seven (6.8%) were saved (survival to hospital discharge). One hundred thirty-six patients were not paced and served as controls; 28 (20.6%) were resuscitated (P = .90) and six (4.4%) were saved (P = .71). Analysis of pacing times showed increased resuscitation in patients paced early. All surviving paced patients were paced in 17 minutes or less. Analysis of rhythm subgroups showed no significant difference in the resuscitation or survival rates of paced and control groups for primary asystole, primary electromechanical dissociation, and secondary asystole and electromechanical dissociation occurring after countershock treatment of ventricular fibrillation when compared respectively. However, among patients with hypotensive bradycardia, six of six paced patients were resuscitated and five were saved, while only two of seven controls were resuscitated (P = .01) and one was saved (P = .01). Interpretation of the bradycardic patient data is limited by inequalities noted between control and treatment groups with regard to the administration of isoproterenol.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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